Golf champ at 19: Who is Yuka Saso?

PHOTO CAPTION: Yuka Saso, a two-time champ, shocked everyone with a masterful display on the greens to capture the US Women’s Open over the weekend./iNEWS (Photo from Japan LPGA website)

(Gabriel Pabico Lalu/Inquirer Sports)

MANILA, Philippines–Social media users went abuzz after Filipino-Japanese Yuka Saso just became the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open.

But who is she?

Despite a lot of Filipinos getting to know her only after the victory, Saso is not an entirely new name in the Philippine golf scene.

Born to a Filipino mother and a Japanese father, she would get acquainted with golf at a young age as she relocated to Japan after staying in Bulacan in her early years.

From there, Saso started competing in amateur contests, the highlight of which was her representing the country in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, where she got two gold medals.

She then turned pro in 2019 and in 2020 won her first tournament in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA).

Saso is also the first Filipino to win in the JLPGA, which resulted in her being named the 2020 Athlete of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA).

However, Saso’s road to winning the 2021 US Women’s Open did not come without pitfalls.

In August 2020, while the world was just starting to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Saso narrated how failures led her to bag a tournament in the tough JLPGA.

According to Saso, she won the JLPGA after she failed to decide whether she should immediately turn pro or accept scholarships from colleges in the United States, and also after she failed to qualify for the US LPGA.

From an August 18, 2020 story:

“I think I wasn’t at my best [then],” Saso said when asked how she took her US LPGA failure. “I think it was God’s way of telling me to learn [the game] more, to practice harder.”

She said thinking of that college degree kept her from playing her best while in the United States.

“At that time, I was choosing between going to college and turning pro. So in a way, that might have affected my performance,” Saso said.

“I wasn’t really too sure what direction I wanted to take and it was only after that (failure) that I was able to talk things out with my parents.”

It appears that it was the best decision for Saso at that time, as it definitely led to a US Women’s Open title. (Gabriel Pabico Lalu/Inquirer Sports)

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